Salvation's End

BY : Grieving Leon
Category: Final Fantasy VIII > Yaoi - Male/Male > Squall/Zell
Dragon prints: 1179
Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy VIII, nor the characters therein. I don't make money off this story.


Salvation’s End



Chapter 10: The Arrival

Squall entered the private train cabin first, crossing over to the build-in couch and flopping down heavily.  Zell followed in, shutting and locking the door and tossing the duffle bag they were sharing over to the side, then he joined Squall on the couch.



“I don’t like trains much,” Squall said as he looked around the room.



“Why?” Zell asked.  He had an arm on the backrest of the couch, behind Squall, silently hoping that Squall would scoot over and sit back against him.



Squall sighed and leaned forward, his upper arms resting on his thighs.  “They remind me of Laguna.  I wonder if I might be transported into his head again.”



Zell blinked and looked around the cabin much as Squall had done.  “That’s right,” he said.  “The first time Ellone sent us back into Laguna and the others was when we were in a train.”



“Yea,” Squall mumbled, lowering his eyes to the carpeted floor under his blue sneakers.  Now that they were in the privacy of the (expensive and SeeD-Gil paid for) train cabin, Squall knew he should at least be thinking about a cover story for their time in Deling City -- for Zell to tell his coworkers and Fufu when they asked.



This vacation would also give Zell a chance to call the Garden and talk to his friends and girlfriend -- and Zell could call his mother.  Maybe Squall should call his father, but they were estranged anyways, and the only people at Balamb Garden Squall spoke to were awkwardly his ex-girlfriends.  He had absolutely no interest in hearing from them.



Maybe as High Commander, Squall should call and check in, but he didn’t want to get into an awkward conversation with Quistis or Rinoa.  Not that either woman missed him.



“What are you thinking?” Zell asked.  He’d always wanted to ask Squall that -- not because of their time together during this mission, it was that he had always wanted to ask whenever Squall sat quietly, leaning over and staring at the floor like the man often did.



Squall blinked away his thoughts and turned to look back at Zell.  “Um,” he mumbled before saying “I was thinking about what we should tell people we did in Deling City.”



Zell half frowned and shook his head.  “I’ll just tell everyone we had a lot of sex.”



Sitting upright, Squall turned his upper body to Zell.  “We went to Deling City to have sex?”



“What else would we do?” Zell asked with amusement.



“Gamble at their casinos?” Squall said.



Zell shook his head.  “K’Oz doesn’t gamble.”



“Go to one of those live shows?”  But Squall already knew that was also an unsuccessful idea.



“Don’t those tickets sell out months in advance?” Zell asked.  “And are super expensive?”



Squall shifted his body away from Zell again, leaning back over with his arms on his thighs to stare once more at the carpet.



Dropping his arm from the couch, Zell scooted himself to Squall, pressing himself to Squall’s side, hands laid on Squall’s shoulders, and leaning hard while nuzzling his chin against Squall’s neck.  “How about a picnic? I mean if people are all up in our business, I’ll just say we went out to the Deling City park and had a picnic.  And then we also went window shopping in their mall district.”



Squall didn’t reply.



“Besides,” Zell said, pulling his chin from Squall’s neck.  “No one is really going to ask that much about it.”



“...Okay,” Squall replied.



Zell pressed his cheek against Squall’s shoulder bone and leaned heavily against the brunette man once more.  He gently squeezed Squall’s shoulders.



Zell’s sapphire eyes darted over to the double bed against the far wall in their cabin and he briefly wondered if Squall would go for having sex here.  The thought was fleeting and he shoved it back down into his belly: Squall had already explained this vacation was meant to step away from all the sex they were having.



That made Zell wonder if he was even supposed to be touching Squall at all.  He knew that if he’d leaned against Squall like this last year, the brunette man would have jumped up and turned around to glare at Zell.  



“You thought of people you’re going to call?” Squall asked, breaking the silence.



“Call?” asked Zell.



“Like Celine,” said Squall.



Zell sat upright and his hands dropped from Squall’s shoulders, but he didn’t move from where he sat next to Squall.  “Who?”



“Ah, fuck,” Squall mumbled.  “Your...”  He sighed.  “Your girlfriend.”  



Zell half smiled and said “Claire.”



“Ah, right.” Squall mumbled.  He kept his eyes on the carpet.  “...Sorry.”



“It’s okay,” Zell said with a tiny laugh. Then he moved his right hand to rest on Squall’s back to rub it.  “Actually,” he said with a sigh, “the only thing I have to say to Claire is that I want to break up with her.”



“What?” Squall said, finally turning from the carpet to look up at Zell.



“I’m not-” Zell started to say, but he stopped himself and took in a breath before licking his lips.  He dropped his hand away from Squall’s back and moved to sit on the edge of the couch, putting a small space between himself and Squall.  “Listen, Squall, I know... I mean, I get that we’re... Ah Hyne.”  He shook his head, his sapphire eyes on the carpet.



Squall waited in silence, his grey-blue eyes focused on Zell’s face.



Zell finally turned to look at Squall’s face again.  “Squall, I know we’re on assignment.  And I know that we’re... pretending.  I know that, I get it.  But I never even... understood how two people could feel about each other until this assignment.”



“...Zell,” Squall said softly.  He knew exactly what Zell meant, but before he could say anything in response, Zell jumped off the couch and turned to look down at Squall.



“I don’t love Claire,” Zell said, trying not to get angry.  “I don’t...I don’t even know Claire.  Her favorite color is... pink, I think?”  He turned and walked a step then turned back to Squall.  “Favorite food, no idea.  Movie?  Nope.  She’s a Gloves specialist like me, and that’s what I have in common with her.  She’s a stranger that I dated.”



“I remember seeing you laughing with her,” Squall said.  He wasn’t trying to start a fight or argue any point, it was just the truth.



Zell shrugged.  “I laugh with a lot of people.”



Squall watched Zell.



Zell sighed then said “I know we’re trying to... get away from playing house together.  I know that’s what this vacation is for.  But Claire isn’t my girlfriend anymore.  Whatever it is that we share, Squall, you and me, Claire is no comparison.”



It was the same for Squall -- no comparison to any feelings he had before, any thoughts about a future life that he used to think about.  Squall lowered his blue-grey eyes back to the carpet.



Quickly, Zell stepped back to Squall and kneeled down before him, resting his hands on Squall’s knees.  “I’m not sure if I’m gay,” Zell said, the words were difficult to say, and immediately Zell felt nauseous. “But you’re so beautiful and I...”  Zell paused and glanced quickly away from Squall’s intense gaze, the blonde man licking his dry lips again before looking back up.  “But you fucking lost 20 pounds and grew your hair out and wear makeup -- and you can’t even defend yourself so I get this big erection being your fucking saviour that you don’t even need.”



Zell pushed off his knees and stood up before stepping away from Squall and looking nowhere as his sapphire eyes darted around the room.



After a moment of silence, Squall said “And we say we love each other.”



Quickly Zell turned his sapphire eyes to meet with Squall’s gaze again.



“Without,” said Squall, “hesitation or shame.”  Squall lifted up his left hand few few inches and caressed with his right hand’s fingers the elaborate and beautiful engagement ring he wore.  “We’re even engaged.”



Swallowing hard, Zell turned his head away and blinked back the coming tears.



Squall finally stood up and walked the three steps to Zell, who would not look up.  Gently Squall took Zell’s face in his hands and made the blonde man look at him.  A couple tears fell silently down Zell’s cheeks as he blinked and tried to pull himself from Squall’s weak grasp: Squall stepped forward as Zell moved back, not allowing the blonde man to run away.



“I don’t know what it is that we share, either, Zell,” Squall said, keeping his grey-blue eyes locked on Zell’s face.  “If you say you don’t want Claire, then... I’ll never have to remember her name again.”



Zell breathed out a small laugh mixed with tears, sniffing afterwards.



Squall smiled at him.  “You are my best friend.”



“You’re my best friend,” Zell replied, the tears finally overtaking him and he cried.



Squall pulled Zell into his arms, wrapping them over Zell’s shoulders and the blonde man wrapped his arms around Squall’s waist.  Gently, Squall caressed a hand over the back of Zell’s head, letting the tattooed man cry softly.



“You don’t have to call Claire or anyone,” Squall said, his mouth almost pressed against Zell’s ear.  “But I was thinking that maybe you wanted to call your mom.”



Zell, his face wet and eyes red, pulled back only enough to look into Squall’s eyes again.



Squall nodded with a gentle smile, still caressing Zell’s hair.



“That would be so nice,” Zell said, his words almost shaking.



A few seconds went by as they stood like that, Zell’s tears dying down.



“I meant what I said last night,” Squall said softly.



The sapphire eyes swirled as they looked at Squall, the puffy and redness not for an instance taking away from how beautiful those eyes looked.



Squall moved a hand to Zell’s cheek again, cupping it as he said “About being safe with you.  I might not need protection, Zell, but Hyne, I’ve never slept through the night on assignment until I had you with me.”



Weakly, Zell grasped at Squall’s waist, at the belt and jeans the brunette man wore.  “I’ll always protect you,” Zell softly said.



“It’s difficult,” Squall continued.  “I’ve always had to be on, you know?  Be the strong one, the one to respond first if danger showed, the one standing in front of everyone else.”  He paused and Zell waited, giving Squall the chance to sort out his words.  “...I don’t know what I’m saying.  I guess, it’s just that I like that I can depend on you.”



“Of course you can depend on me,” Zell said, and he felt stronger inside, and the tears and crying had pushed away.



With a half smile, Squall said “I know.”  Then he hugged Zell, tightly, reveling in Zell’s strong, thick arms as the blonde man hugged him back. “You’re my best friend.  ...My family.”



Zell closed his eyes and held Squall tightly, desperate for those words and the brunette man’s body, for the gentle intimacy Squall was sharing with him.  He wanted to say those three powerful words that K’Oz could say to Amyst without hesitation, but Zell knew he wasn’t allowed.  



“Zell Dincht,” Squall said.  He wanted Zell to hear the name, to understand the words weren’t a facade for anyone watching (there was no one watching).  Squall had never been closer to anyone -- not even Seifer Almasy, of whom he spent his youth competing against.



“High Commander,” whispered Zell into Squall’s neck.



Squall softly laughed once, caressing a hand over Zell’s hair.



“C’mon,” said Squall as he lowered his arms from Zell to break the hug.  Then Squall turned and walked to the couch to sit once more.



Zell followed Squall and sat next to the brunette man, knees bent with his feet up and leaning his side against the couch.  When Squall slid backwards, so that his back was against the couch’s backrest, Zell gently took Squall’s arm and pulled it against his chest, wrapping both of his own arms around it.



Squall smiled at Zell and set his hand on Zell’s knee.



The train ride from Dollet to Deling City would be three hours, and Squall wondered what he was supposed to do to pass the time.  Briefly he thought of his romance novel, but not only would he have been too embarrassed to read it in front of Zell, Zell wouldn’t have had anything to do.



With a glance to the beds on the far wall, Squall thought that sex would been a great time-killer, but of course that would be inappropriate.



“Can I ask you something personal?” Zell said, interrupting Squall from his awkward daydream.  “It’s completely none of my business, and you don’t have to answer.”



Squall couldn’t imagine anything that was so personal he wouldn’t tell Zell.  “Go ahead, Zell.”



Zell slid his hands down Squall’s arm until he reached the brunette’s hand where he gently held it between both of his hands.  “Do you ever think about getting married?”



“No,” Squall replied without hesitation.



“Wow, really?” Zell asked, his sapphire eyes almost wide while he looked at Squall’s face.



Squall’s expression was plain, looking back at Zell.  He shrugged.  “Even after Rinoa told me I wasn’t a family man, I still never felt like it was something for me.”



Zell lowered his eyes to where his two hands held Squall’s hand.  



“I guess I’m not a family man,” Squall said plainly, but he kept his grey-blue eyes on Zell’s soft and beautiful face.



Zell didn’t look up.



“C’mon, Zell,” Squall said, trying to sound lighthearted.  “Can you really picture me with a wife and kids and the white picket fence?”



With those words, Zell lifted his gaze back to Squall’s face.  His lips parted.



“I never had that,” Squall explained.  “I was raised in an orphanage and then at a mercenary training school.  ...What would I do with a wife and kids?”



“You never thought you would with Rinoa?” Zell asked.  “Or Quistis?”



Squall frowned.  “No.  It never even crossed my mind until Rinoa broke up with me over it.  And then when I started dating Quistis, she works as much as I do, I had no idea she wanted more than that SeeD life.”



Zell nodded, trying not to look as though he’d just been rejected.



“I love being SeeD,” Squall said, smiling as he tried to show Zell it was okay.



“And you don’t ever want kids?” Zell asked with reservation.



Still smiling, Squall said “I’d be the worst father ever.”



“What?!” Zell said, a very small frown on his forehead.  “You’d be a great dad!”



Squall’s smile vanished and he looked away from Zell.  He’d already admitted to Seifer what Quistis had said to him, so he might as well tell Zell too.  Softly, Squall said “When Quistis broke up with me last year, she told me that I’m nothing but a hero.”



“You are a hero,” Zell said, still watching Squall.



Squall blinked then looked back up to Zell.  “Without something to be a hero for, I have nothing to offer anyone.”



“What?” Zell said with a frown.



With defeat, Squall said “Like I should have just died after saving the world from Time Compression.”



“What the fuck?!” Zell snapped angrily.  “What a fucking bitch.”



“Zell,” Squall said softly but sternly.  He smiled, looking over Zell’s enraged face.  “The point being: I’m a SeeD not a family man.”



Zell’s anger faded.  He looked down to where his two hands still held Squall’s.  “I never thought that about you.”



Squall still smiled, looking over Zell’s semi-angry, semi-pouting face.  The brunette man squeezed his best friend’s hand and asked “You want kids?”



Without looking up, Zell nodded.



Squall’s smile widened and he laughed once.  “You’d be the perfect father.”



Zell turned his swirling sapphire eyes up at Squall, the anger and pout gone.  



“I can just picture you with mini-Zells running around,” Squall said with amusement.  



Zell was bursting to ask Squall if he’d like to have sons like that, like Zell; if Squall would like to raise those kids with Zell.  Of course, the tattooed blonde man couldn’t ask, it would be too embarrassing and what if Squall was repulsed?



“What about mini-Squalls?” Zell asked softly, his sapphire eyes sparkling at Squall.



Squall laughed and turned away from Zell, lifting up his free hand to press the back of his fingers against his smile while he continued to laugh.  



A small smile cracked on Zell’s lips while he watched Squall close those beautiful grey-blue eyes and laugh harder.



“They could play with the mini-Zells,” said Zell with soft amusement.



Squall opened his grey-blue eyes and turned to look at Zell again, still laughing.



Zell moved the fingers of one hand to intertwine with Squall’s fingers.  Zell smiled as he watched Squall laugh while those grey-blue eyes sparkled.



“You could get a house in Balamb,” Squall said still smiling though his laughter had settled down.  “Near your mother where you’d raise your kids.”



The notion was suddenly strange to Zell, because he’d never thought of living anywhere other than Balamb Garden, even with kids.  The white picket fence picture Seifer had painted the other day -- the one with Squall in a dress holding a baby -- had even held a strong attachment to Balamb Garden.  Zell had never even considered living anywhere else.  



“Or, you know,” Squall said seriously -- without knowing what Zell had just thought.  “I could design some nursery center at Balamb Garden.  So parents could stay SeeD even with families.”  He paused and then added quickly “I mean, it would just be another option for you to raise your kids.”



A dull ache filled Zell’s chest and he was amazed that Squall had read him like that.



“And your mini-Zells could reign destruction on my Garden,” Squall said, smiling happily.



Zell loved the idea, and it swirled pleasures and excitement through him, mixing with a fantasy of Squall at his side as his husband.



Without thinking it over, and the question came simply because Zell was so desperate to ask Squall about raising kids with him, Zell blurted out “Does Amyst want kids with K’Oz?”



“Oh,” Squall said, the smiling dwindling.  “Um.”  He hadn’t considered that, simply because the two men were gay and kids hadn’t seemed plausible before.  “Well, how... how would they have kids?”



Zell’s smile faded also.  “They could adopt.”



“A baby?” Squall asked.



Zell nodded.  “Or they could find a surrogate mother.”



“Which would be the father?” Squall asked.



Zell’s eyes lowered from Squall’s face.  “I don’t know.”



Another smile pulled on Squall’s mouth and he quickly said “They could mix their sperm together and whatever baby is born would be their child.”



Slowly Zell brought his sapphire eyes back up and a longing enveloped him.



“Well,” Squall said plainly, half smiling and looking way from Zell.  “Not like that would actually happen.  But I guess,” he looked back at Zell, “now we can tell people that we’ve thought and talked about kids.”



“Yea,” Zell said in a half-mumble.  He lowered his eyes down once again to his hands holding Squall’s.



After a moment of silence passed, Squall asked “What made you ask about kids?”



Zell looked back up.  “Um.”  He didn’t want to tell Squall about Seifer’s “preger” joke, but that had been what made Zell think of kids.  So with a sigh, Zell said “Seifer.”



Squall raised a single eyebrow.



“When I told him that we were engaged,” Zell said, carefully assessing Squall’s expression, “he asked me how I got you pregnant.”



But Squall wasn’t angry and he smiled.  “He’s such a dick.”



“He’s really jealous I get to play your boyfriend,” said Zell absently.



The smile faded from Squall’s face as he said “Oh, man, I didn’t realize he was gay.”



Zell’s lips pressed together.  He hadn’t bothered to tell Squall that either.



“For hours I was,” Squall said plainly, “acting like Amyst.  ...You know, ‘cause it’s so hard to flip it off.  I felt so stupid after he told me he was gay.”



“He liked it,” Zell grumbled.



“That’s weird,” Squall replied.



Zell imagined Squall Amyst flirting with Seifer, touching Seifer’s broad chest, and then dancing erotically with Seifer.  Hyne, Zell wanted to punch Seifer.



“He told me,” said Squall, “flirting with me felt like incest.”



That made Zell feel a little better.  “Yea, that’s what I told Fufu when he came to the Pink Pony to tattle on you.”



Squall frowned at Zell. “That Seifer and I have incest sex together?”



“Ew!” Zell said loudly, unable to stop the smile.  “No!!  That Seifer’s like your big brother. ...Incest... ew.”



Squall laughed once.  “Sorry.”  Then he turned and looked back down at the carpet, laying his free hand on his lap.



Zell watched Squall briefly then he said “Before I forget, ‘cause the kids-thing reminded me, K’Oz wants to buy Squall a huge house.”



Squall turned to look at Zell again.



“Kinda an apology for the shitty apartment,” Zell explained.



“With what money?” Squall asked.



Zell frowned, his nose wrinkled.  “He’s working on it!”



“I didn’t,” Squall said lightly, smiling.  “I didn’t mean it negatively.  It’s just when could K’Oz buy a house?”



“Let him have his damn dream,” Zell grumbled.



“I’m sorry,” Squall said with amusement.  “Okay, so huge house.  Sounds good.”



“No!” Zell said.  He sighed.  “What kind of house would Amyst like?  So I can go look at prices and find one.”



“I don’t know, Zell,” Squall said.  His smile faded and he sighed.  “Amyst doesn’t care. He...”



With a sad pout, Zell watched Squall, waiting.



“Like the kids-thing,” Squall said, trying not to sound defeated. “Amyst would do whatever K’Oz wanted.”



“So he doesn’t even want kids?” Zell asked.



“He wants K’Oz’s kids,” replied Squall plainly.  



“And whatever house K’Oz wants,” Zell grumbled, trying to hold back his frustration.



“He loves his apartment,” Squall said.



A frown wrinkled Zell’s forehead.  “That apartment’s shit.”



Squall squeezed Zell’s hand.  “That apartment is his world with K’Oz.  And that’s all he wants: To be with K’Oz.”



Zell looked away.



“If I have to think of a house,” Squall said, because he honestly wanted to make Zell Dincht happy.  Squall breathed in deeply, thinking about the backstory he’d created for Amyst.  “He doesn’t want a house.”



“C’mon!” Zell snapped, releasing Squall’s hands and standing up.  The frustration had won over.



Squall smiled at Zell and with a light laugh, he said sincerely “He wants a condominium.”



Zell turned and looked down at Squall.



“Like an apartment, but we’d own it,” Squall explained.  “Clean, high up with a view.”



After watching Squall for a few seconds in silence, Zell smiled and sat back down.  He took Squall’s hand again.  “A condominium.”



“Okay,” Squall said with finality.  “House and kids issues dealt with.”



Zell’s smile widened and he leaned over, pressing his cheek against Squall’s shoulder as he hugged Squall’s arm.



Squall reached up with his free hand to caressed Zell’s hair.  He pressed his cheek against Zell’s forehead.  



“Thanks,” Zell said softly, his eyes closed and he didn’t move from where he pressed to Squall.



It was then that Squall understood the two-day vacation wasn’t going to be as helpful as he’d hoped -- because Squall had to admit to himself that the house and kids questions were fun.  If he -- Squall Leonhart, the non-family man who was The SeeD -- thought talking about mini-Zells and surrogate mothers was fun, he could only imagine what sweet and kindhearted Zell Dincht thought about it.



~*~



Lenny Clout walked slowly through the house, towards the stairs that he had to climb to reach Nymphic’s office.  The large house was too large for Clout’s tastes, the rooms were three times too big, the walls decorated with fine detail that was too busy for someone to truly appreciate, and even the stairs were wide enough to fit a malboro up.



Clout was one of Nymphic’s generals, and he’d been working directly under Nymphic for almost 20 years; he was now 44. This General’s primary industry was pedophilia-focused sex -- of all types -- although he did dabble in hardcore women pornography from time to time.



As Clout reached the bottom of the stairs, Dommy and Cain came stampeding down all the while talking and laughing.



“Oh, hey, Mr. Clout,” Dommy said as he neared the bottom few steps.  He stopped his stampeding dash and walked the last few stairs down and frowned at Clout.  “You have a meeting with my dad?”



Dommy was one sexy boy.  He dressed in those popular punk clothes that were sold already torn, but the boy was far too sweet to pull off the look well.  But that sweetness only increased how sexy Dommy was, at least in Clout’s opinion.  



“Yea,” Clout said with a half smile, knowing his eyes lingered on the boy too long, but he couldn’t help himself.  If Nymphic had seen those eyes, though, Clout doubted he’d live for much longer.  Dommy was strictly a no-fly(fuck) zone.  “Your father called an emergency meeting.”  Clout shrugged.  “I guess someone’s sales are down.”



Cain stepped closer to Dommy and took his best friend’s hand, their fingers weaving together.  Clout turned to Cain and smiled before looking back at Dommy when the Snuff Lord’s son spoke.



“Guess he’s going to be busy all afternoon?” Dommy asked, sounding disappointed.



“It just means you could slip out of the house,” Clout replied, “off to a party, and he wouldn’t notice.”



Dommy smiled in embarrassment and shook his head while saying softly “I wouldn’t do that.”



“No,” Clout replied, trying not to smirk too wide.  “I guess you wouldn’t.”



“We’re going to go get something to eat,” Dommy said, squeezing Cain’s hand.



“You boys have fun,” Clout said, stepping back so they could run again -- to the kitchen.  



“Thanks,” Dommy said and he turned and ran, pulling Cain along closely behind.



Clout held in a lovelorn sigh as the two boys dashed around a corner,  Then he turned back to the stairs and began his trek up the many steps.



Once upstairs, Clout passed through the hallway slowly, until he finally reached Nymphic’s office door.  After entering, he walked over to the chairs scattered around the room and sat next to Yavianne.  Nymphic was at his desk, looking serious while he spoke with General Frank Zenith in a hushed voice.



Clout leaned over to Yavianne and asked softly “So what is this about?”



Yavianne was a beautiful woman, 35 years old, thin and mildly muscular.  She took an interest in female domination and ran the bestiality, monster, and GF pornography branch of Nymphic’s empire.  Her eyes were piercing blue and hair a light blonde that she generally wore up in some fancy hairstyle of braids and curls.  Clout and she collaborated on occasion in mother-child pornography.



Yavianne raised a slender eyebrow and leaned to Clout while whispering in a thick Trabian accent “Dommy.”



Clout frowned.



Yavianne smiled her ruby-red lips and nodded.  She almost purred her words through her thick accent as she said “I had to send my best dogs over here to... eat and fuck one of Dommy’s bodyguards.”



“What’d he do?” Clout asked.  A million images raced through Clout’s mind, at least half of which Clout wished he could do to Dommy himself.



“Let a little note with a threat reach Dommy,” she replied, half smiling.



“That’s it?” Clout asked.



“Ha! It’s Dommy,” Yavianne replied.  She stole a glance to Nymphic and Zenith talking before she looked back to Clout.  “You know the only reason Nymphic can even claim to be human anymore is because of his love for that boy.  And he’d tear down the world to prove it.”



Clout turned to look at Nymphic, whose sneer had deepened while Zenith shook his head.

Clout asked “What’d the note say?”



“Something about dogs,” Yavianne said, also looking at Nymphic.



Clout turned to glance at her briefly, and she caught his eye and grinned before returning her whole attention back to Nymphic.



“Who sent it?” Clout asked.



Yavianne shrugged, bored.



Clout looked around the room to see who was missing still: Sadie Lorelei sat in the chair closest to Nymphic’s desk.  She was a tight-ass woman, Clout considered a bitch, and wasn’t interested in pornography.  She ran Nymphic’s drug trade and was all but Nymphic’s personal assistant.  Clout thought perhaps Nymphic and she may have had a relationship, except the woman was as dry as the desert and Nymphic had some strange love for his long-dead wife.



Denrick was sitting in another chair, half listening to Masato Micho.  The Estharian Masato Micho also ran bestiality, monster, and GF pornography, but his primary focus was blood sports and torture.  The Estharian had an affinity for blades and had even become a Katal specialist.



When the office door open and Tom Bastian entered, that was the final General needed for the meeting to start.  Bastian ran the black market and human trafficking branch for Nymphic.



Zenith moved away from Nymphic’s desk and sat down next to Lorelei while Bastian took his own seat.



Nymphic sat upright, his eyes serious, his arms laying on his desk and fingers woven together.



“A man,” Nymphic said seriously, “named Don Fynt has decided that he rather likes Dollet.”



The seven generals sat quietly.



“And he rather likes what I’ve built here,” Nymphic said.  He paused, knowing he needed control to speak and not yell at his council.  “He announced himself to me...by announcing himself to Dommy.”



A few of the male generals shifted in their seats.



“My son’s fine,” Nymphic said sternly.  “Shaken.  But now... I know you’ll all find consensus with how Don Fynt should be dealt with.”



Nymphic looked down to his hands and breathed a moment.  



“We’ve all worked,” Nymphic said, looking back up and then around to each of his General’s faces, “hard.  ...I want this man.  I want this man’s friends.  I want his family, even family he didn’t know existed.  I want their blood, their screams, the cracking of their bones to soothe me to sleep each night.”  His voice turned soft and tranquil.  “I’m going to hang Don Fynt over my bed and relish the dreams I have as his blood drips on me while I sleep, and peacefully smile at the bloodcurdling lullaby he chokes out.  



“The people working for Fynt are just as guilty,” Nymphic said, sternly once more.  “I want them all dead.  Openly, and fucking in the face of SeeD.  I want the world to know that Dollet belongs to me, and no one should dare try to sneak into my empire.”



~*~



The train came to a halt, the intercom coming on to announce the arrival at Deling City.



Squall looked down at Zell, who had his head laying in Squall’s lap, the blonde man fast asleep.  Squall had spent almost two hours sitting there with Zell asleep, gently caressing his fingertips over Zell’s blonde hair, occasionally sliding down to caress the man’s face.



Now that they had arrived, Squall regretfully reached a hand to Zell’s shoulder and shook the man hard.



“Uh, what?” Zell mumbled and then turned further to the brunette man’s body, almost pressing his face hard against Squall’s crotch.



Squall half smiled looking down at Zell, who groaned and nuzzled Squall then began to settle back down to go sleep again.



“Zell,” Squall said, holding back his amusement.



“Baby?” Zell muttered half awake.



“We’re in Deling City,” Squall said.



Zell opened his eyes and then sluggishly sat up, sniffing away the sleep and dreams.   



When Squall stood up, Zell tossed his legs over the side of the couch then stretched and yawned, awkwardly covering his mouth with his right hand.



A few minutes later the two men were walking out of the train with a crowd, into the chilly evening air.  Zell shrugged the duffle bag’s strap into a more comfortable position on his left shoulder then, absently, Zell reached his hand to Squall’s and took it then led them forward.



Squall followed Zell, glancing down to where their hands were locked, but he didn’t say anything.  



They made their way up the stairs through the crowd of arrivers and then over the brightly lit cement walkway to the bus stop.



As they waited for the next bus to arrive -- which did every 10 minutes -- Zell kept Squall’s hand tightly in his, oblivious that he probably shouldn’t be holding Squall’s hand now.  Squall, however, knew their vacation had started and knew that he should pull his hand from Zell’s, but he didn’t want to.  Not even the guilt Squall felt made him release beautiful Zell’s hand.



“Which hotel did you want to stay at?” Zell asked after the bus arrived and he and Squall were climbing on board.  Zell tossed two Gil into the coin-box then led Squall to some seats.



“Somewhere that doesn’t have lumpy beds,” Squall whispered as they sat down.



Zell looked at him and smiled, earning a gentle smile back from Squall.  Before Zell’s smile faded (as he realized that maybe he and Squall wouldn’t be sharing a bed that night), Squall turned and looked out the bus window, into the streetlight lit darkness.



With Squall looking away, Zell turned his eyes down to where he was tightly holding Squall’s hand.  A pang of unrequited love slowly bubbled inside Zell.  He knew he needed to let go, but he didn’t have the strength to force his body to do it.  Squall’s hand was soft, like Squall’s whole body, and Zell didn’t want to spend any day, let alone an entire vacation, without touching the breathtaking brunette man.



Zell turned his eyes back up to Squall’s head, looking over the beautiful longish hair.  If he wasn’t supposed to hold Squall’s hand, wouldn’t the High Commander himself make Zell let go?  Using that paper-thin justification, Zell turned away from his assessment of Squall and squeezed Squall’s hand.



Without looking back at Zell, Squall gave Zell’s hand a soft squeeze in return.



When the bus stopped at the bus station near the hotels, Zell stood up and pulled Squall along with him.  



“How about,” Squall said once they stood out in the cold and the bus pulled back into traffic, “the Vinzer Estate?” It was a b-rated motel a few blocks down from where they stood.



“Let’s just stay at the Galbadia Hotel,” Zell said.



Squall turned from looking down the street.  Zell had already looked away from Squall, to the Galbadia Hotel a few blocks in the other direction.



“I’m not sure,” whispered Squall.



Zell turned back to him and frowned.  “We already took that expensive train car here.  Who’ll know we stayed in some luxury hotel?”



Squall sighed.  He hated trains, which is why he’d thoughtlessly purchased the expensive train car with his SeeD Gil.  And now Zell was using that against him.  But it was for only a night, and Zell was right, who’d know. Besides, if anyone asked, they could pass it off with Zell K’Oz saying he’d refuse to let Squall Amyst sleep in some b-rate motel!



Zell smiled, he knew he’d easily won the argument and Squall was going to stay at the luxury hotel with him.



With that, Zell turned and led them across the street and the few blocks down, never releasing Squall’s hand from his.



Inside, however, Squall pulled his hand from Zell’s then reached into his back pocket for his wallet, removing his unlabeled SeeD card -- which had an unlimited spending account attached to it, untraceable even though Balamb Garden paid for it.



At the main desk, Squall set down his card and said “Two rooms, please” to the clerk.    The man smiled and nodded and went about booking two rooms.



The words “two rooms” slapped Zell across the face.  Immediately, the blonde bouncer wished he’d accepted the Vinzer Estate shitty motel, because he could have used the argument that “we might run into someone we know, so we’d better share a room”.  Zell obviously couldn’t use that argument now.



The blonde man looked away from Squall and tried to hide how heartbroken he felt.  He hadn’t slept apart from Squall in eight months, even during that first no-sex month they had shared a bed -- platonically.



Squall gently touched Zell’s arm with the keycard for the blonde’s room.  Zell glanced up at Squall’s face, and Squall smiled, then Zell looked down seeing the keycard then accepting it.  



“I’m ready for dinner,” Squall said.



“Oh,” Zell said, and he realized suddenly that he, too, was hungry.  “Okay, uh, where did you want to eat?”



Squall started walking towards the elevators and Zell followed.



“We can eat here at the bar,” Squall said as he walked.  “Or we can go out to a fancy restaurant.  I haven’t had West Cactus in awhile and it sounds delicious.”  At the elevators, Squall pressed the Up button and waited.



“West Cactus?” Zell asked.



“Oh, uh, it’s a delicacy here,” Squall said.



Zell nodded.



A small smile cracked on Squall’s lips and he looked away from Zell.  The brunette man thought a moment then glanced back at Zell, smiling and blushing.  Zell frowned at him.  Squall looked away again and shook his head.



“What?!” Zell asked.



While biting his lower lip, Squall turned once more to Zell.  He smiled and said “I’d say West Cactus is a delicacy like Balamb Garden’s hotdogs but... the hotdogs aren’t really considered a delicacy.”



Zell scoffed and frowned, looking to the elevator doors waiting for them to open.



Squall smiled to himself.



The door opened and the two men walked into the box.



“I really do miss those hotdogs,” Zell mumbled as Squall pushed the button for the 15th floor.



Squall used both hands and grasped Zell’s unencumbered arm and leaned heavily against the blonde man.  “I do, too,” Squall said with amusement.



Zell glared at him.  



After they reached the 15th floor, and as they excited, Zell frowned to himself and asked Squall “I thought we were going to dinner.”



“We’re going to drop the bag off first,” Squall said, sliding one hand down Zell’s arm before slipping his hand into Zell’s.



“Right,” Zell said.  A moment later they had entered Zell’s suite: The room was large with a king-size bed, beautiful off-white walls with tasteful paintings, a large entertainment center near the bed and a table with a mini fridge next to it off in the corner.  



Zell tossed the bag onto his bed as Squall released his hand and crossed the room.  



“Bathroom,” Squall said and Zell nodded then flopped down on the bed next to his bag.



As the bathroom door closed, Zell realized how utterly soft the bed was.  He turned and looked over the gigantic bed, at the beautiful white cotton comforter set.  Quickly, Zell jumped the rest of the way onto the bed to flop down in the middle, laying on his back, looking up at the ceiling.



He hadn’t been in a bed that felt this comfortable since Balamb Garden.  The blonde man smiled and closed his eyes.



When the bathroom door opened a minute later, Zell heard Squall ask “You fall asleep?”



“No,” Zell said, keeping his eyes closed.  “It’s just... so fucking soft.”



Zell felt the mattress shift and he knew Squall had climbed up onto it with him.  Zell opened his eyes and turned to see Squall laying on his back, staring up at the ceiling.  



“The no-lumpy-mattress was a good call,” Zell said with a grin.



Squall looked at him and smiled weakly back.



Zell then sat up and bounced off the bed and once standing tall, Zell turned to look at Squall slowly climb off the bed too.  The blonde man lifted his right arm and held out his hand, palm up.  Squall glanced down to the hand and was unable to resist as he stepped to Zell.  Gently, Squall slid his hand into Zell’s open palm, then they both closed their fingers around each other.



“Now let’s go eat some delicate cactus,” Zell said before he turned to lead Squall from the room.



Squall laughed lightly, his heart beating fast.

 



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